Thermal protection disables the output when the junction temperature rises to approximately 160°C, allowing the device to cool. When the junction temperature cools to approximately 140°C, the output circuitry is again enabled. Depending on power dissipation, thermal resistance, and ambient temperature, the thermal protection circuit may cycle on and off. This cycling limits the dissipation of the regulator, thus protecting the regulator from damage as a result of overheating.
Any tendency to activate the thermal protection circuit indicates excessive power dissipation or an inadequate heatsink. For reliable operation, limit junction temperature to 125°C (maximum). To estimate the margin of safety in a complete design (including heatsink), increase the ambient temperature until the thermal protection is triggered; use worst-case loads and signal conditions.
For good reliability, thermal protection triggers at least 35°C above the maximum expected ambient condition of the particular application. This configuration produces a worst-case junction temperature of 125°C at the highest expected ambient temperature and worst-case load.
The internal protection circuitry of the LDO is designed to protect against overload conditions. This circuitry is not intended to replace proper heatsinking. Continuously running the LDO into thermal shutdown degrades device reliability.